Hanging out in local parksPosted by in Homelessness
It’s funny how while you’re on your journey through life, you end up meeting people that are willing to tell you their story. While in Auburn, I took my youngest daughter to a park and once there, Maggie befriended three red-headed children varying in ages and their mother. You mothers out there know that while your kid is playing with other kids, sooner or later conversations happen between you and other parents. Well one thing led to another and soon this now single mother told me that she was a young widow raising her kids alone. She lost her husband to cancer only a few months ago and they were just now going on outings again. She told me she’s having a rough time financially but she has a handful of relatives in the area to help her while she looks for work. If things don’t improve soon though, she has no idea what will happen to her and the kids.
I listened to her while the kids ran through giant water sprinklers because it seemed to me that it was no accident that we happened to be in the park that day. She said they do get her husband’s pension payments because he was a firefighter but they are one check away from homelessness. She told me that you really have to be grateful for every day you get because things can change on you faster than you could possibly imagine. I thanked this young mom and told her my kids and I would probably be in the area from time to time and I looked forward to meeting her again.
Not long after meeting this young family, I met another woman who was visiting Washington from Oregon. This woman was a grandmother with five beautiful grandchildren playing in a sandbox big enough for a group of adults to play in. She told me that she works for social services in Oregon and she realized first-hand how bad the homeless situation was getting there due to lack of affordable housing and not enough shelters to house everyone looking for help. She is also angry at the fact that when budget cuts come around, it seems to always be on the backs of the needy. I listened as she went down a list of all the programs being cut and laughed when she said she imagined this was happening nationally. I nodded in agreement. I told her to check out We Are Visible to see what Mark Horvath is doing to help the homeless connect via social media. I am hoping to hear from this Oregonian soon!
I managed to stop by a laundromat in Kent to see if an old friend still worked as an attendant there. I was pleased to see that she still does! “Margaret” asked if I was still homeless as it has been awhile since she saw us last. I told her I was and she shook her head. She remembered how I worked two jobs and even remembered when I couldn’t stop shaking after I had a bad igraine/seizure that put me in the emergency room one night. “Margaret” is 80 years old and social security is not enough for her to live on so she works for minimum wages at the laundromat to supplement her income. She took a liking to us and whenever she finds abandoned blankets, coats or hats, she lets us come by and pick them up.
While doing a load of laundry, I called my local DSHS office because they sent me a letter saying that although they received my paperwork for a review on food stamp and health benefits, it was denied because I missed my interview. I called 5 times to hear the automated phone systems say that all operators were busy and that I should try my call later. On the sixth try, I got to a case worker and asked why no one bothered to read the portion of paperwork I filled out that clearly says I asked for a phone interview. I have been doing phone interviews for the last several years because I don’t always have gas money to get to the local office. The case worker said they no longer look at that and I mentioned that every time I have to deal with this office there’s a problem. The last time I filled out paperwork to keep my benefits going, the woman I spoke too told me that my case was updated. A doctor’s bill came back to me as having been denied by my health coverage because we had no eligibility. After several attempts to get a live person on the phone, another caseworker pulled my file to discover the last one did not follow through on updating my file so we had the privilege of waiting a week to buy food. I can tell you worse experiences I’ve had with DSHS that I should’ve been able to sue for on grounds of gross negligence but guess what? You can’t sue them because it’s in their contract that they can’t be sued even if they cause a major impact on your life. I was able to get my file updated today but….I will be calling back July 2nd to double check. I have learned that high case loads and the state not hiring more workers has led to a “haste instead of accuracy” pace behind the scenes to make production numbers look good to upper management. Due to budget cuts, some benefits on our health coverage have been eliminated and the hours of operation have changed as well. Try getting a hold of someone on a Friday….
When lunch time rolled around, Maggie and I went to a local grocery store with a deli in it that had microwaves. Maggie chose a corn dog for lunch happened to only be $2.00. I picked out a cheap fried chicken entree that happened to be on sale for $1.00! Add to that two bottled drinks and we paid $6.00 total for the two of us!
I went on the internet here at the library to look at job postings….ha ha ha ha haaa! After I recovered, I moved more stuff from my storage unit to my friend’s place in Fremont as I plan on having a big yard sale starting on Friday. Advertising it on Craig’s list is a no-brainer since it’s free! I have until the end of the month to get rid of my storage unit as the manager of the property said I only need to give two day’s notice that I won’t be needing it otherwise they’ll charge me $120.00.
I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day yet where I haven’t met folks who weren’t affected by the recession this country is still stuck in. Even so, it doesn’t dampen my spirits much. Sometimes, having it rough can be a blessing in disguise. For one thing, it toughens you to hardship as long as you don’t give up. Yes, there are times when we cry because of our situation but my kids have amazed me more than once. Maggie told me last night that even though we live in a van, she’s glad that we are together. Even my testy teenager wonders how it is that I didn’t give them up at the first sign of trouble. Well, here’s my philosophy on that….Just because times get rough doesn’t mean I give up on keeping my family together. The “system” will tear families apart simply because the support structure is faulty in the first place and too often, I’ve seen it cause more problems that it solved. Gross mismanagement of funds for the needy at the federal level cause exponential hardships for many and because of that, all the public sees is a waste of money. Negative images fuel voters to support politicians who are in favor of stripping or eliminating social services. What would happen if the poor had powerful lobbyists of their own?
On the positive side of things, I am truly amazed at the emails I get from folks telling me how glad they are that I have shared my experiences with them. I figure by being public about a growing tragedy in this country that can be prevented (but isn’t), it will help others to see that homelessness isn’t some communicable terminal disease. If you land in it, don’t give up, there is a community out here to help you stay positive and connected.
It’s called We Are Visible and I hope to see you all there!